PLS Executives Articulate the Power of Company’s Mission

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PLS’s top management discussed the process of communicating and implementing the company’s mission during a forum at The Build Network’s “Build Your High Performance Management Team” event this week in Chicago. The conference drew more than 150 C-suite leaders from middle-market companies across the U.S.

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Bob Wolfberg, Jim Patterson, Bill Ettelson, Brian Johnson and Dan Wolfberg.

’Why PLS? Because You Deserve Better!’ means something tangible—it’s not just a phrase.

PLS’s top management discussed the process of communicating and implementing the company’s mission during a forum at The Build Network’s “Build Your High Performance Management Team” event this week in Chicago. The conference drew more than 150 C-suite leaders from middle-market companies across the U.S.

The “Build Your High Performance Management Team” event was held at Chicago’s Palmer House Hotel and was presented by The Build Network, an online community hosted by Inc. magazine for executives of mid-sized companies.

PLS operates more than 300 financial services centers in nine states, providing innovative and convenient financial services delivered with the respect that hard-working consumers deserve.

The PLS executives were featured in the panel entitled “Creating Clarity of Purpose: How to Communicate Mission and Strategy So They Drive Behavior.” Bob Wolfberg and Dan Wolfberg, who share the title of President, were joined by Brian Johnson, SVP Field Operations; Jim Patterson, SVP and CFO; and Bill Ettelson, SVP and General Counsel/Chief Compliance Officer. The panel was hosted by Susan Annunzio, president and CEO of The Center for High Performance.

A promise to customers and to employees

“The PLS mission—Why PLS? Because You Deserve Better!—is the reason we exist,” said Dan Wolfberg. “It’s a promise we make to our customers: to offer more innovative products and services, to make their lives easier and better, and to provide exceptional customer service with every visit.

“It’s also a promise we make to our team members, because we believe they deserve better as well,” continued Wolfberg. “We offer a positive and rewarding work environment, opportunities to develop their skills and advance in their careers, and the chance to be part of a larger mission.”

Wolfberg and his colleagues discussed how PLS management communicates its mission so clearly that the actions of every one of its 3,100 team members are guided by it. “We walk the talk,” stated Dan Wolfberg during the discussion.

“’Why PLS? Because You Deserve Better!’ means something tangible—it’s not just a phrase,” he continued. “For example, this past quarter when we reviewed our employee insurance coverage and benefits packages, we decided our team members deserved better. So we increased our investment in our employees and went to bat with our insurance companies to get our people a better deal.”

Ensuring exceptional customer service

“Our employees see that ‘You Deserve Better’ works both ways,” added Wolfberg. “They recognize that they’re valued members of a team. And they show a tremendous amount of pride and enthusiasm in their work, because they’re helping people with their lives.”

“We sell a commodity—money,” stated Bob Wolfberg. “We have a value proposition, but that only goes so far. You can only cut prices so far. Our differentiation is our customer service.”

“How do you ensure that your high expectations are met at the store level?” asked Susan Annunzio.

“We get out there constantly and walk the stores,” said SVP Field Operations Brian Johnson. “We walk the parking lots, we look at signage. And we follow up—was that item reported? How was it handled? The details are very important. And if top management pays attention to the details, then everyone on the store team understands that they’re important.”

“We give our store managers the tools and the support to succeed,” added CFO Jim Patterson. “There’s a huge training component—each store manager runs a mini-business. They can explain their profitability and results, year over year.”

Working together while challenging one another

“And how do the members of the executive team work together?” the PLS team was asked. “We spend a lot of time questioning each other,” responded General Counsel Bill Ettelson. “We’re always asking, why is that so? Why did you make that decision? It’s part of our culture.”

“We challenge each other and hold each other accountable,” added Johnson. “The meetings are tough sometimes, but accountability is tough.”

“This was a terrific opportunity to share best practices and management/communication techniques with executives from an array of fast-growing firms,” commented Bob Wolfberg after the session. “Mid-sized companies are the engine driving today’s economy, and it’s great to exchange ideas with entrepreneurs who deal with the same issues and challenges we face every day.”

About PLS: People. Location. Service.

The PLS Group, headquartered in Chicago, is comprised of more than 300 financial services centers in Alabama, Arizona, California, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, New York, Texas and Wisconsin, with more than 3,100 employees. PLS is one of the largest, fastest-growing and most distinguished organizations in the check cashing industry, and is a top performer for Western Union, a money transfer network.

PLS has been listed among Inc. magazine’s “5000 Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America” for the past three years, and for three consecutive years has been named one of the “101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in Chicago” by the National Association of Business Resources. For the past four years, PLS has been named one of Chicago’s Largest Privately Held Companies by Crain’s Chicago Business®, and was a member of Crain’s “Fast 50” (Fastest Growing Companies). Bob and Dan Wolfberg, PLS Presidents, were finalists for Ernst & Young’s 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In 2011, Bob Wolfberg was recognized by Financial Service Centers of America (FiSCA) as its Financial Service Provider of the Year. The company has also been twice honored with the Activa Award from FiSCA in recognition of its charitable efforts.

The PLS Group serves customers through its PLS Check Cashers stores, which offer check cashing, prepaid Visa debit cards, money transfer services, money orders and bill payments; PLS Loan Store locations, which provide consumer short-term loans, auto insurance and tax-preparation services; and PLS Motor Vehicle Services facilities, which offer vehicle license and registration services.

About The Build Network

Hosted and created by Inc. magazine, The Build Network is the new source of insight and connection dedicated to CEOs and executive teams of midsized businesses—the economy’s hot core. Members of the Build community can connect with the world’s top management thinkers and leading middle market CEOs via Build/Live events, The Build Network website and Build’s print quarterly.

About Susan Annunzio

Susan Annunzio is president and chief executive officer of The Center for High Perfomance ( She is a strategic advisor to CEOs of leading global companies on strategy attainment and business transformation. Susan is a former adjunct Professor of Management at the University of Chicago Booth Graduate School Of Business where she still teaches the most popular Executive Education program, High Performance Leadership. She is the author of Contagious Success (Portfolio, 2004). She has been a guest on numerous local and national television and radio news programs and has been quoted extensively in the business press, including The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, BBC, USA Today and Bloomberg.


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Barb Wolf
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